If you go looking for the US embassy in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, you won’t find it. You’ll find years of US presidents from both parties making promises to move the embassy from Tel-Aviv, and only delaying this eventual move until they can get out of office. If you want to see pictures from most US presidents’ visits to Israel during their first term, you won’t find too many, since they largely never happened.
By this same token, I don’t think that Obama’s omission, and readmission, of language about Jerusalem in his 2012 platform is a major indicator of anything. All that this might possibly, sort of, maybe, imply, is that when it comes down to it, Obama is realistic about the fact that anyone negotiating a comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis at least needs to consider the status of Jerusalem. I am not advocating the division of Jerusalem, or anything of that sort, but what I do suggest is that American Jewish voters stop allowing the GOP and DNC to make Israel a partisan issue. It isn’t. Both Democrats and Republicans support Israel, and to vote solely because of these baseless claims about either Romney or Obama being definitively vital to Israel’s existence is to cheapen the “Jewish vote” and the Jewish American experience.
Call me a pessimist, but I don’t think either Romney or Obama will be able to solve Israel’s problems during their first day in office. However, neither will “abandon” Israel. To think that they would undermine a basic principal that guides the American Zionist community would undermine our own position that Israel is a vital Western democracy and ally. Israel is not a Democrat or Republican “issue.” It’s a real-life democracy that deserves to live with law-abiding people as neighbors, something that any leader of the United States should recognize.
When candidates try and pander to the “Jewish vote” it scares me, and it’s border-line offensive. Assuming that the candidate who screams the loudest in support of Israel is going to be effective denigrates the competition for the “Jewish vote” to nothing more than a superficial shouting match. The issues that Israel faces are complex. A true ally of Israel would realize those complexities, and think of ways to support Israel as it seeks security and peace.
My vote is going to be about a lot more than an omission in a three-paragraph platform statement about Israel. I am a proud product of the American Jewish experience. American Jews have been advocates for Israel, civil liberties, and equality throughout our history in the US. I hope that when candidates think about “the Jewish vote” they think about more than semantics and propaganda. We are a well-educated minority, and we can see through rhetoric.